ESPN Buying Iowa; BCS Bowl Game Prediction

September 28, 2009

Written by Jon Miller

ESPN’s two bowl ‘prognosticators’ have Iowa going to the Rose Bowl.

One of these fella’s is Mark Schlabach, who says Iowa is a ‘buy’ right now, in the old comparison between sports teams and stocks.

“Perhaps no team improved more during the first four weeks of the season. The Hawkeyes had to block field goal attempts on consecutive plays to beat FCS foe Northern Iowa 17-16 in the Sept. 5 opener, and then completely manhandled Penn State on the road on Saturday night. Iowa still faces at least three difficult games: home against No. 22 Michigan on Oct. 10, at Wisconsin on Oct. 17 and at No. 9 Ohio State on Nov. 14. If the Hawkeyes finish at least 11-1, it’s hard to imagine a BCS bowl game passing on them because of their rabid fan base. Prediction: BCS bowl game”

After three weeks of sending Iowa to football purgatory, ESPN is back on the bandwagon in a big way; neither Schlabach nor Bruce Feldman had Iowa going to a bowl game after the Hawks beat UNI.  That game certainly shook the foundations of even the most blind followers of the Hawkeyes, so I don’t want to throw these guys under the bus too quickly.  They were hardly alone, as Iowa fell out of both polls, and fell even further after beating Iowa State 35-3 the following week.

Yet, the Hawkeyes now own wins over teams from the Big 12, Pac 10 and a once overrated Big Ten team, plus their win against UNI may have come against the best team in that level of play.   The Hawks went from #31 in the AP last week to #13 this week.  They went from #30 in the Sports Information Directors Coaches Poll to #17, but Penn State is #13.  They are #14 in the first Harris Interactive Poll, but the Nits are #12.  Four of the six computer polls that comprise the BCS are releasing their rankings, and Iowa is ranked 1,1,4 & 9 in those polls.  They throw out the high and the low and average the rest.  That would equate to a ranking between 2nd or 3rd in the nation through four games.

Sagarin says Iowa has played the 11th toughest schedule in the nation, and Iowa still has games against Michigan, Wisconsin, Michigan State and Ohio State left on its schedule.

Here’s the deal; it’s fun to think about the Rose Bowl.  It’s fun to think about BCS bowl games.  It’s fun to read and/or hear other people talk about Iowa this way, as it’s been some time since that has happened.  Is it premature?  Sure it is.  But so what?  The words of pundits don’t matter between the lines and the optimism of fans has never scored or allowed a touchdown.

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You have to enjoy the victories in life.  At least the fans do.  Kirk Ferentz is likely working on getting his team focused for the task at hand, which is Arkansas State.  I will not be surprised to see Iowa come out sluggish in this game.  It’s human nature, and if they win by a score of 24-9 or something like that, don’t fret as it was bound to happen.

However, if Iowa rolls it up against ASU and the offense finally starts to execute the plays that have been available in every game, then look out.

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As I have written before during this season, the 2002 IOWA HAWKEYES were just the 2002 iowa hawkeyes six games into the season.  Yes, they were 5-1, but they were not taking names midway through the regular season.  They had to pound out a 29-24 win at Miami (OH), then they lost at home to Iowa State.  In games five and six, they were fortunate to win; they came from ahead to nearly lose at Penn State and they needed heroics to beat Purdue at home.

After the Purdue game, they became the 2002 IOWA HAWKEYES, as no one was within 16 points of them in any regular season game over the final half of the year.

I am not saying that is going to be the case this year, but the offense can get a lot better and I think it will get a lot better.  The defense will get better two, because the front seven is going to feed off of the success they have been having.

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It’s not preposterous to let yourself dream of an undefeated season, but it’s improbable given their schedule.  As Schlabach said, if Iowa goes 11-1, a BCS bowl game is a possibility.  However, Boise State is not going to lose another regular season game, and Michigan State and Purdue could have possibly cost the Big Ten two teams into the BCS for not having sealed the deal against Notre Dame.

Let’s not worry about that right now.  For now, enjoy this season that is unfolding.  Iowa hasn’t started a season 5-0 since 1995, then they lost four straight.  Before then, it was 1986.  They haven’t started a season 6-0 since the fabled 1985 season that saw Iowa go 7-0 and ranked #1 in the nation, before losing to Ohio State.

A 6-0 start is a very real possibility for this football team, which is why I said last week the game at Penn State was easily one of the five most important regular season games in the Kirk Ferentz era.  They passed that test, and they have a bit of a breather this week to refocus, digest some success and accolades and get back to task for the final seven games of this season.  It should be a wild ride, and you need to enjoy it.  Because years like the one this season is shaping up to be, they don’t come around all that often.

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